MENDELSSOHN | Konzertstück no. 2
FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Konzertstück no. 2 in D minor, op. 114
- Allegro grazioso
Father and son, Heinrich and Carl Baermann, were leading virtuosi on the clarinet. They had developed a close friendship with Mendelssohn when he had heard them play in Munich in 1829, and when they set off for a recital tour of St Petersburg in October 1832, they stopped off at Berlin in order to meet Mendelssohn. Carl was also a renowned cook and Mendelssohn promised to write them a duo if he promised to cook his favourite dish. As Carl recalled, “When I arrived at his quarters at the appointed time of nine o’clock in the morning, he set a chef's toque upon my head, tied an apron around me and thrust a wooden spoon in behind the straps. He proceeded to attire himself in the same manner; only instead of the spoon he set a pen behind his ear, and led me down into the kitchen to the great amusement of the kitchen staff. He himself, he declared, would now return to his piano-stove, where he would stir up some notes, knead, season, and sugar them, make a piquant sauce to go with it and then set the lot cooking on an infernal fire. At five o’clock the ominous hour had come by which everything must be ready, and when it struck, my heartbeat anxiously too, full of trepidation as to whether the yeast dumplings had risen as they should.
To my great joy they showed themselves risen to a splendid height while my strudel in cream was simmering away melodiously in the casserole. Mendelssohn was quite beside himself about my culinary art. It was straight away agreed that today’s scene should be repeated. Thus I now possess two inestimably precious souvenirs of the great master.” While the first Konzertstück for two clarinets and piano was certainly completed in time for the Berlin meal, the second was sent to the Baermanns in January 1833 after they had left Berlin.
Mendelssohn recommended that Heinrich orchestrate the piano part, and that is the version we hear in this concert. The first movement is an exuberant duet, full of light-hearted chattering, between the two solo instruments – the clarinet and the lower-toned basset horn. The second movement opens with a sombre idea from horn and strings, but for much of the movement only the two soloists play, the clarinet expounding a lyrical melody supported by arpeggio figures from the basset horn. A light, scampering dance from the strings introduces the third movement which takes the form of a joyous romp with the two solo instruments at times chasing each other around and at others pairing off in tight ensemble.
Programme notes by Dr Marc Rochester
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